What is work from home burnout and how to overcome it?

The pandemic has led to a shift in working environments for almost all employees—millions of us, even today, continue to work from home. While this has enabled businesses and employees to maintain a sense of continuity and normalcy, it also has blurred the barriers between work and home.  According to a study by Indeed, those who work virtually are more likely to say burnout has worsened over the course of the pandemic (38%) than are those working on-site (28%); other notable differences can also be found in each group’s ability to unplug and the availability of perks. A work from home burnout may not be the same for everybody, the symptoms may vary from person-to-person and not dealing with it at the right time can lead to serious implications. Here are eight strategies to avoid work from home burnout. 

Setting clear boundaries 

Your work and out-of-work activities must not occur in the same physical space. While working from home, you might find yourself working on the couch or on the bed, a few minutes before bedtime. Although this may seem harmless, this work style may be one of the factors of burnout. The absence of clear physical boundaries, make it difficult for many to unplug from work. People who work from home tend to work longer hours than in-office workers. As per a research paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, the average workday lengthened by around 48 minutes since the start of the pandemic. Not everybody has the luxury to have a separate office space at home, but it is highly recommended to have a separate set up inside your house that is only dedicated to work and nothing else. This means one should avoid having meals in the office set up and not use it for leisure activities. It is also recommended to get yourself ready in the same way when you’d go to the office for work. 

Well-defined routine and work schedules 

Do you check your emails first thing in the morning after you wake up?  Are you attending a conference call while having lunch? Just because you don’t have to go to the office physically doesn’t mean that you don’t have to stick to a proper routine. It is essential to set working hours while working from home and follow a routine like when you are in-office work. Your work-from-home routine must have dedicated time slots for work, family, meals, breaks, etc. You need to communicate your working hours upfront with your co-workers, clients, and family members. Dedicated time slots will ensure you are working productively with complete concentration. If you find yourself working late nights consistently, then it is important to know when to disconnect and ask yourself whether the task can wait until tomorrow. 

 It is quite challenging to be productive when working from home—use productivity hacks such as the 90/20 rule where you spend 90 minutes focused on a specific task and then take a 20-minute break. Another similar technique is the Pomodoro Technique. To avoid work from home anxiety and getting overwhelmed maintain TO-DO lists and set S-M-A-R-T (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) goals. 

Scheduling breaks 

With your workday being free from office commute and workplace distractions, it is tempting to consider working to your full potential continuously. However, working in this style will lead to burnout. Adequate breaks ensure you relax and recharge yourself; so don’t feel guilty about taking some time off for yourself. Be aware of your limits and know when to pause and decompress. You may consider going for a walk away from your office setup, have a power nap, do yoga, meditate, listen to music, or have a healthy snack. Remote work does not mean that you must continuously be at your desk, glued to your laptop. While taking breaks avoid doing things that will consume your mental energy or make you process information. Keep your phone and other work devices away. If you are experiencing burnout and need more time to rejuvenate, consider taking a day off and doing things that you like. If you are short on leaves, plan your weekend for a getaway or a staycation. Ensure you fully utilize your weekly off by staying away from work. 

Physical fitness 

A good combination of a well-balanced diet and workout is vital for a healthy body and mind; there is a link between our physical and mental well-being. Avoid constantly snacking on sugary and salty foods while working and skipping meals due to work. Refrain from skipping workouts, because we are working from home we tend to sit at our workstations for long hours. A sedentary life will not only make you add a few pounds but also lead to mental fatigue, anxiety, and depression. In case it is not possible to hit the gyms consider home workouts, the internet is flooded with workout, yoga, and meditation videos and apps. Yoga can be done comfortably at home without any gym equipment. 

Walking: An underrated physical exercise, walking for just 10-15 minutes can help you clear your mind and help relieve you from stress and anxiety. You can even utilize your short breaks to simply walk inside your apartment building, neighbourhood, or nearby park. The fresh air will increase the oxygen levels in your body, which will boost your energy and improve concentration. Avoid taking work calls or scrolling through your emails during your walk time. 

Reward yourself 

Rewarding yourself for the tasks that you complete will help you stay motivated. Say, if you complete that project before the deadline, then treat yourself to that exotic spa or your favourite restaurant. You’ve been working hard, and it is difficult working from home, you absolutely deserve every bit of the reward. This applies to all the small accomplishments too, reward yourself by watching your favourite movie or TV show. Happy hormones such as Endorphins get released in your body when you engage in reward-producing activities. 

The human connection 

Since offices were shut down due to the pandemic, we were compelled to work from home. This meant no catching up with colleagues and no water cooler conversations. Working from home can make you feel lonely, especially when you are away from your family and staying alone. Get in touch with your family and friends regularly, and ensure you have a Support system. Talk to people outside of work, join clubs of your interests, meet new people, and network with people in physical and virtual events. Try virtual coworking spaces or find a remote work colleague. If you know someone from your network in a similar position, ask that person to be your work buddy. Some of our co-workers and friends may also be facing a similar situation, you will never know unless you get in touch with them. 

Self-care and mental health 

No job is worth sacrificing your mental health.  Always listen to your mind and body when it needs rest. If you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed due to work and deadlines, you may find it helpful to express this to your boss. Just because you’re home doesn’t mean you have to do it all, says the North Carolina–based productivity coach Tanya Dalton, author of The Joy of Missing Out: Live More by Doing Less.  Taking on too much because you feel obligated is the path to burnout, whatever combination of work or household tasks is adding up to “too much,” she says. “Your time is finite. Stop trying to get more done in the same few hours.” Consider outsourcing or delegating tasks such as grocery shopping, babysitting, and house cleaning. Discuss the issues that you are facing with your family and friends. A change in your current location may also help if you feel stuck. Practice mindfulness, engage yourself in a hobby, deeply immerse yourself in something you are passionate about or try gratitude journaling.  

Reconsider your job  

According to the Mayo Clinic, job burnout is a special type of work-related stress — a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity. Here are some questions to think about – Is your job constantly stressing you out? Are you getting irritated by the monotonous and repetitive tasks at work? Is your office environment toxic? You may be working in an industry that is not aligned with your interests or your current work is not helping you achieve job satisfaction. You may find yourself in an office environment that is not supportive. If your passion lies in a different industry, say, the technology industry, then you might consider working on the switch. 

Besides these tips think about the advantages a work-from-home system offers. You get to spend time with family, avoid commuting long distances to work, get more time to pursue your hobbies, and spend more time cooking healthy meals. Finding the elusive ‘balance’ using some of the tips given above key to avoid the WFH burnout.  

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